WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has decided to allow a Christian homeschooling family from Germany to remain in the country after initially battling the family in court as they sought asylum in the United States.
As previously reported, Ewe and Hannelore Romeike have been battling the matter in the courts for several years while continuing to raise their six children in rural Tennessee. The Romeike family fled to the United States in 2008 after German authorities demanded that they stop homeschooling in violation of national law.
Homeschooling was made illegal in the country in 1938 under the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler, and the law has never been repealed, but rather strengthened. In 2007, the German Supreme Court ruled that the country’s mandate that children be sent to public school is necessary to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”
German officials have been cracking down on families that keep their sons and daughters at home, and have threatened them with fines, imprisonment and even the removal of the children from the household. The Romeike children were taken from their parents for a time before fleeing to the United States for refuge.
In 2010, Memphis immigration judge Lawrence Burman granted the family asylum, stating that he believed the Romeike’s would face persecution for their faith if they returned to Germany. However, the Department of Justice later appealed the ruling to the Sixth Circuit, which overturned Burman’s decision.
“[T]he Romeikes [have] not shown that Germany’s enforcement of its general school-attendance law amounts to persecution against them, whether on grounds of religion or membership in a recognized social group,” the court ruled. “There is a difference between the persecution of a discrete group and the prosecution of those who violate a generally applicable law.”
As the Sixth Circuit recently denied a request for rehearing, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which has been representing the family in court, appealed the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court. On Monday, the court declined to hear the case, sending a shock-wave of disappointment throughout the country to those who supported the family’s quest for asylum.
However, the following day, HSLDA announced that the Department of Homeland Security contacted the organization to outline that it had decided to grant the Romeike’s “indefinite deferred action status,” meaning that the family will not be deported as originally ordered.
HSLDA President Mike Farris said in a statement that he was “thrilled” with the decision.
“This is an incredible victory that I can only credit to Almighty God,” he wrote. “I also want to thank those who spoke up on this issue—including that long ago White House petition. We believe that the public outcry made a huge impact. What an amazing turnaround—in just 24 hours.”
The Romeikes have been homeschooling their children in the United States for the past six years.